Gluten Lite

Some call it gluten-free. Others call it a gluten intolerance. I call it gluten lite. I’m not one for fad diets. Yet, here I am, 30 years old and finally listening to my body. It’s saying, “Go easy on the gluten girlfriend!”. Around a year ago, I began hearing more about the gluten-free life. To the girl raised on primarily beans and rice, it was all news to me. When I noticed things turning sour for my skin and insides, I gave it a try. I couldn’t pinpoint what the “issue” was but I knew it couldn’t hurt to experiment. I’ll admit, that was unsafe. Without the guidance of a doctor, I went rogue. Anyone who’s participated in a diet knows what I mean. In NYC, gluten-free pizzas and breads weren’t easy to come by so I mostly stuck to fruits, veggies, and wine. Voila! Like magic, I was feeling better. I had more focus at work, I felt less tired by the day’s end, and I was regular. You didn’t think I’d go this entire post and not mention a bowel movement, did you?

Then came the guilt. I unknowingly entered into a world where people are truly suffering serious pain and discomfort from a gluten intolerance or allergy. I do not have celiac disease yet I felt guilty for joining the gluten-free movement without a real “problem”. If I wanted a bagel, I’d get one. I’d suffer through it with a lot less pain than those with celiac disease. I felt dishonest. I decided it was time to do a little research so I could stand behind my decision with confidence.

For those who don’t know, gluten is what gives dough it’s elasticity. Think of it like the glue for grains: wheat, rye, and barely specifically. It’s a binding compound. For some people, it practically binds to their insides, causing lots of discomfort. According to studies, 1 in 133 people in developing countries suffer from the condition. Although it’s a relatively knew diagnosis, gluten intolerance has been around for centuries. When we changed from a fruit, vegetable, animal protein and plant-based diet to one with more grains, our bodies had to make an adjustment.

Since my decision, I’ve moved around a bit and landed in Portland, Oregon, where vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian items are always on a menu. Sufferers here still have to practice caution when eating out but the options are more widely available then they’ve ever been. Portland has caught on to the “trend”. I feel guilty for even calling it a trend because for some people this is their life. I made a choice.

Now when people ask me why I’m gluten-free or better yet, when they ask if I’m okay while rubbing their stomach and raising an eyebrow, I admit I’m gluten lite by choice. I do it in solidarity with others who truly suffer. I munch on my berries and bacon and feel just fine.


As a writer, I have a tendency to take copious notes about life and all it’s happenings. I document lots of stuff. Part of that begins with setting goals at the start of the year (not to be confused with New Year’s resolutions) and checking back in with myself throughout the year to be sure I’m on track (or catch up in some cases). I truly believe in the power of writing something down or saying it aloud to bring it into fruition. Whether that’s a new job, better health, family resolutions, or friendship woes– putting it out there can do nothing but help. In my opinion, the best way to get something done is to share it with others so they can then hold you accountable for your actions.

I have this core group of friends that I trust to hold me accountable. They’re more like life mentors and know me very well. We’ve been friends for a long time. I know they have my best interests in mind and can be brutally honest with me when push comes to shove. Every month, we start an email chain to one another with details about how life is going. We update one another on where we stand with our personal goals and ask for help. A simple ask could be to gain advice on what to wear on a job interview. A bigger one could be what to do about the mounting debts to student loans lenders. Either way, our emails get deep and they always end on a positive note. I told them my plans this year: publish this damn book and get back to NZ. What they’ve been helping me with this year is how I’m going to do just that. And it’s worked. Despite all the bumps and bruises life has given me, I’m nearly there. And right on track.

With that said, I have an announcement to make. I’m moving back to New York next month. I’m going back to the big smoke to work my ass off. I have a network of amazing people up there that I want to reconnect with and give me the boost I need to get back to NZ. That’s the plan and I’m sticking to it.

A Writer’s Desk

All good writers have a special place they go to when they are inspired to write. This isn’t the place to gather inspiration– I’m talking about the place where inspiration spills out of their heads. Having spent most of the last year on the road, I’ve tried hard to find that place and make an office space wherever I go. I wrote my first novel at desk built by hand. It was next to lights that provided lovely light in the morning and sat next to french windows looking out to the front garden. Before then, I worked primarily outside in Portland. That space too had great lighting and put me right in the middle of all the vegetation I was studying. I enjoyed the warmth of the space and took full advantage of the rain-less summers in Portland.

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All of these experiences led me to a book. Go figure. It’s called Great House by Nicole Krauss. It’s the story of a desk and how it ties the lives of several people together. I never thought a book (or desk in this case) could be such an inspiration. I wanted nothing more than a desk with a story like that to bring my creative juices out. I moved back to Atlanta and was reunited with the desk of my young adulthood: a dark wood hepplewhite desk with long, lean legs. My mom gave me the lowdown on the piece. At some point in her illustrious interior design career she studied furniture periods and schooled me on the desk’s curves, hardware, and joints.

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I set up the desk next to a few shelves in my room. I brought back a decent library from my old apartment in Brooklyn and made a new space for my writing at home. I always hang a small clothesline with cards, photos, and trinkets pinned to a string. It’s not so much a vision board as it is a section I set aside for memories and nostalgia. These things keep me grateful when life gets a little too wild.

I sit at the desk and write, edit, type, and create. When I sit down to work, it feels like the right place to get stuff done. It feels like someone’s already blessed the piece with good vibes and it’s ready to be used to bring more stories alive. It’s tucked away in a private corner where I can work heads down without interruption for hours on end.

I’m charged up– ready to work!


I’ve long been a fan of pen pals. I enjoy handwritten letters and getting things in the mail besides bills and junk. I recently cleaned up the typewriter of my youth. If you want a letter mailed to you, holler at me. I’m open to writing you something with it.

I went to a shop today called Progressive Methods in Decatur, GA. They pride themselves in owning the domain They were the first IBM retailer in Atlanta and have been in business since 1958. A lovely lady by the name of Cheryl helped me put a new ribbon on my Olivetti Underwood Lettera 32. She was so pleased to see I had a vintage typewriter and asked the story behind it. Well, she first assumed I was a hipster and bought it recently. I told her that my lovely mother kept it for me all these years and it’s the typewriter I grew up with. As a writer, it really means a lot to still have it in my life, especially in the condition it is. It even still has the little travel case with it. Not that it’s a lightweight machine but it’s fun to have.

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I have a lot of re-learning to do when it comes to the old machine (like where the hell is my #1 key?) but I’m eager to write more on it. If I can squeeze it in my luggage– all the better.

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Judging Books, Not Just the Cover

The old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” I admit to doing this all the time. How else am I supposed to choose between the thousands of titles staring at me in the library or bookstore? I can read every dust jacket but seriously, who has time for that? While doing some research, I ran across a quote from William Zinsser that touched on this topic, “Writing is visual– it catches the eye before it has the chance to catch the brain.” True that!

A lot of people ask me for book recommendations. I’m delighted by this because I love talking about books. I feel like I can get to know that person a little more by inquiring about what they’ve read before and what they most enjoy. The writer in me is also very visual. I’ll tell you what I do to select books if it’s not off some random list online. The first thing I do when browsing the bookshelves is see what titles catch my eye visually. Is the font appealing? Is it too crowded on the spine? Did they use catchy words? Are the colors pleasant? I then open the book to find out how long chapters are. If they go on for more than 7 or 8 pages, it’s most likely not going to make the cut (blame my short attention span). I read the back cover or dust jacket for a captivating synopsis. Did the book or author receive awards worth noting? Has the author published other titles I read or want to read? Does the setting take place in a part of the world (or another world) that I may find interesting to learn about? I scan the book for spacing and more visual cues. Did they choose a nice typeface? Is there sufficient spacing between chapters or any blank pages out of place? Then I pick a chapter and read the first page. If it doesn’t catch me by this point, I put it back on the shelf.

It’s not so much judging a book by it’s cover but it is judging with a lot of visual aspects in mind. Honestly, who wants to read a book they can’t bare to look at for long?

So what am I reading lately? Check out my Goodreads page for constant updates. I also serve as the Books Editor for and discuss the latest in the book world there. If you are interested in more about typography or want to see a really well put together book on the standards of type, check out Buttrick’s Practical Typography.  It’s a beautiful (free) e-book with heaps of information.

Happy reading!

Elizabeth Gilbert, I Owe You One

In 2012, I purchased a Netflix subscription. On the rare occasion that I felt compelled to watch a rom-com, I rented Eat, Pray, Love. At the time, I had no idea it was based on a book. As my girlfriends went on and on about their opinions of the story, I knew I had to watch it. What is it about women’s literature that brings out the opinionated female lit critic? I really enjoyed watching Julia Roberts prance around the globe. I lived vicariously through her for 133 minutes. In order to consider myself a true critic, I picked up the book. Technically, I sat on a waitlist for a couple of weeks in order to rent it from my local library. And I loved it! As crabby as everyone made Elizabeth Gilbert sound, the story really hit home for me. You see, I was on her side. I was rooting for her to leave a crummy marriage, to enjoy romantic worldly love affairs, and embrace the yogic lifestyle. I was comforted to see that someone could do it. I felt that same itch. The itch that says, “You deserve better”. So I took off too. I chose New Zealand over India and Peru over Italy. Nonetheless, my life has followed the same plot as a romantic comedy ever since then.

Two years since my journey began, I’m back stateside writing my memoirs and sharing my story with others. You could say Elizabeth Gilbert was a big influence on my plans and there’s no denying the influence she projects on me. I like to think we have a similar sarcastic tone and humor in our writing. Recently, a friend shared her TED talk about creative genius. She talks about how her best work may be behind her and her opinion on the pressure society puts on artists. I too struggled with my creativity and connected with the issues. Then, for whatever reason, the universe plopped her book Committed in my lap. And again, the parallels ran amok. She describes the adventures of loving and living with a non-US resident. Her deep dive into the history of marriage, commitment, fidelity, monogamy, and women’s rights was even closer to home for me, as someone who never cared for marriage. I related. So I read.

Perhaps my Elizabeth Gilbert web is strung pretty tight these days. She keeps popping up and I can’t ignore her. I have yet to read her latest or other friends’ favorites. It’s probably because they are less relatable to my current circumstances. You can love her or hate her, but it’s hard for me to ignore her influence in my life. The striking similarities are comforting. I am put at ease that crazy lives like ours can exist successfully.   


Treasure to Trash

I’ll be the first to admit, getting stuff for free is awesome. I am walking down the street and something catches my eye. Feelings of excitement and anticipation rush through my body. More often than not, it’s not something I need, but I like rummaging through things and striking gold. Portland has heaps of street corners with treasure. In my opinion, now the problem is that these intersections have become somewhat of a dumping ground.

I have scored some pretty sweet finds on the streets of Brooklyn and Portland. So much stuff that I don’t feel the need to buy things anymore. I feel like it will find me when I really need it. I’ve even honed in on the right time to “shop”. End of the month and days after a garage sale are best. But if you wait too long, you’ll find that most of the stuff is picked over. Wait two more days, and the treasure appears more like garbage. It looks old, soggy and smelly; so you move on.

Some of my coolest finds have come from the streets of Park Slope, BK/NYC. Shelving, tables, chairs, paintings, and countless books have stocked my apartments. I’d always have a good laugh with my roommates when we’d arrive home from work, each with a new piece to add to our eclectic decor. I can’t stand Ikea furniture, for one, so when a new piece of furniture shows up in my life, I treat it with care. “Nothing a good paint job can’t fix” is my motto!

I digress, the issues remains. These once intriguing street corners with funky finds have transformed into the neighborhood trash bin. Rubbish collects by the day and unattractive areas are popping up everywhere. Just look!

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This has to end (If there is an app for this, please let me know)! I propose that the city or county (or some private companies) that maintain the garbage and recycling, should provide bins for things discarded on street corners. Each week, they should get cleaned. Cuz ew. That’s really the only solution I could come up with since seeing the junk piling up nearby a few days ago. I realize taxpayer money is at stake in this proposed case, so please, let’s discuss. Thoughts?

The Tangled Webs We Weave

Have you ever gotten the feeling that once you think about a certain topic, for some reason, it keeps popping up in your life? You become amazed at the signs of the universe and how they must be telling you something? When I was considering moving to New Zealand, all signs were firing at me to do it. Everyone I met had some connection to that place or a story to share. My friend Vibha has a theory on this. I tend to agree with this theory and share it with lots of people.

If you think of the mind as a spiderweb, you soon realize that instead of coincidences or “signs”, you are simply grabbing onto the thoughts and moments in your web because you’ve woven it in such a way. Ideas, discussions, songs, books, people… these things are always present in your life but only when you weave this web do you “catch” certain the ones you are thinking about. You’ve chosen to pay attention to the things you’re most interested in at that moment. 

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about two places: Costa Rica and Tanzania (specifically, Zanzibar). And wouldn’t you know it, everyone I meet has some connection to either or both of those spots. Every book I pick up at the library mentions these destinations and every coffee I drink is from there. Every movie has a line about it. Or every drink has a fruit from there. Okay, maybe not every but you get the point. 

This gives me some confidence in the power of the mind. I like to think I can weave my spiderweb to bring me things. I can fish for whatever is out there and come up successful (unlike most of my fishing attempts on real water). So while I’m weaving my web today, I’ll be thinking of cash. Loads of it. 

The Word Love

Based on an ongoing debate I have with my partner about the use of the word “love”.


When trying to synonymously match a word like love, one must first consider what.

What of the word are you trying to change? The word in the verb form? As a noun? Because it does both.

What about the word isn’t working for you the way it currently stands?

A multi-functional word like love is nearly impossible to replace. As I understand it, the need to change it is based on it’s abuse and mis- or overuse. But a lot stands in your way.

Unlike “like”, love is not a comparison word but more of a state of being.

And not like “lust”, love is a feeling type emotion you achieve through deeper connection.

Is the concern that it’s too of permanent, like it can’t be taken back once proclaimed? I fear that sometimes.

My issue is that it’s used so universally to express interest in things like music, books, coffee. And especially when I tell people like family I love them, I don’t feel the same kind of love for you.

Not to offend, simply stating a difference.

Because what I feel for you can be felt through my whole body, across time, and beyond borders.

What I feel is a respect of sorts for your mind and body and a subsequent craving to have more of it at my disposal.

This love isn’t a dependent thing either. Nor is it a pretense for something bigger.

It’s a connection I feel for you, a comfort in knowing you feel something too and want it in your life at this moment.

Is it that what you feel is so strong that using the word love wouldn’t do it justice? That only 4 letters is too simplistic and short?

The good news is that using a word like love leaves little question. It’s definitive and gives you warm and fuzzies. And that it transcends lots — a sweeping statement in 1 word really.

But I don’t want that either.

I want a word that I can say to you and there is no question what I’m feeling. This is where affection and action compliment speech.

So much like no nicknames haven’t stuck, I continue the search for a word or perhaps invent new ones as we go. We have time on our side.

Moments, Not Words

Inspired by The Book of Awakening daily reading on July 8, 2014 entitled Moments, Not Words

When I think about a way to sum up my stay in Portland, I can’t think of any one place or thing that stands out. The entire summer has been incredible but there are a few moments that come to mind. There have been times when I’m talking to a friend or walking about and I stop to think, “This is delightful. I’m really happy right now”. It would be too daunting to read each of my experiences but a quick rundown is in order to give you a better sense of life in Rose City. Things I’ve done: Reggae, roots and Ethiopian music shows at Alhambra Theater, a comedy show at Hollywood Theater, Pedalpalooza rides that filled the month of June, sunsets at Skidmore Bluffs and Rocky Butte, Fourth of July fireworks on a boat in the Willamette, High Rocks watering hole, Sauvie Island girls’ day trip, reading (and sometimes napping) in the parks filled with sweet scents and tall evergreen trees, early morning World Cup soccer watching at the pub, finding a new favorite grocery in New Seasons, Powell’s, house sitting at cool homes for even cooler people, a birthday party at the park for my nephew with a 3-tiered chocolate and peanut butter cake we transported by bike, sipping tereré (the Paraguayan iced version of yerba maté) with friends, single-origin chocolate tastings around town, and countless coffees and brunches. None of this would have been possible without the care and support of my brother who moved here 17 years ago and always encouraged me to join him. I feel confident to now call Portland my west coast home. During a recent comedy show, Jerrod Carmichael claimed he loved Portland but didn’t really understand what goes on here. “It’s like you guys are just one big non-profit” he said and the audience roared with laughter. He’s right.

The other day, I was describing a place to visit on an off-night when we didn’t have much else going on. I mentioned that this hip spot was a bike shop slash cafe slash bar slash art gallery slash event space. It’s called Velo Cult. It made no sense to my friends. But we all later agreed that in Portland, this place makes sense. After an afternoon of the best pizza in town and yoga in the park, we rode to Velo Cult for some chill out time. The first thing my friend said to me when we walked in was how anyone who comes to Portland should go to this place. It is a mainstay. In her eyes, she just walked into the coolest place in town. And I agreed. The only thing missing was a library. Then, the books appeared. A small group of books about bikes was sitting at the main table in the middle of the room. As we sipped our drinks, we browsed through books about the world’s best rides and made a short bucket list for our 10-year plans. As we were leaving, a man was browsing the shop and taking photos. As he approached our table, he mentioned he just arrived from Vancouver BC and needed his bike repaired. Velo Cult was his first stop. He proclaimed he felt like he arrived at — wait for it — the coolest place in town. We all agreed. It’s not that other cities aren’t cool or hip too, it just feels like it’s encouraged behavior here and you are given the space to express yourself freely.

That moment stood out to me. I walked away thinking that this was the coolest city and I made the right choice in coming back. Bridgetown, Stumptown, Rip City, whatever you call it, is made for people like me who crave creativity, expression, and not a overwhelmingly big-city feel. Cool things happen here.


(photo by Isaac Spedding)